Local Current Blog

Here are all the Minnesota angles on the 2021 Grammy nominees

Adrianne Lenker at the Cedar Cultural Center, 2019. (Mary Mathis/MPR)

The 2021 Grammy nominations are out and…did someone say LOCAL ANGLE? We’re on it.

The biggest local connection in this year’s nominations is probably Taylor Swift’s quarantine album folklore, created with The National’s Aaron Dessner…who has tight ties to the Eau Claire scene, which is right across the border from the greatest state in the union. That means that Minnesota musicians like J.T. Bates played on the album, which landed five noms including Album of the Year – and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for “Exile,” a duet with Justin Vernon a.k.a. Bon Iver. (Or “Bonny Bear,” to Grammy viewers still confused about his Best New Artist win back in 2012.)

It’s also a huge year for women in guitar music, with women or women-fronted groups snagging every single nomination in the Best Rock Performance category. That includes a nod for Big Thief (“Not”), fronted by Minnesota-raised Adrianne Lenker. “Not” was also nominated for Best Rock Song.

A poignant posthumous nomination for Prince: the Super Deluxe Edition of 1999 was nominated for Best Historical Album. Don’t miss our Story of 1999 podcast for an in-depth dive into that remarkable set.

Chris Riemenschneider of the Star Tribune caught two significant local connections: “Twin Cities native Tom Overby is up for best American roots song for co-writing ‘Man Without a Soul’ with his multi-Grammy-winning wife Lucinda Williams. Also, native Minnesotan Bernie Grundman, who runs a renowned recording mastering studio in Hollywood, got his umpteenth nom in the best historical album category for Prince’s 1999: Super Deluxe.”

The Okee Dokee Brothers have four previous Grammy nominations, including a win for Can You Canoe? (2012), in the Best Children’s Album category. They’re up again this year in that category, for Songs for Singin’.

Another perennial Grammy favorite is Maria Schneider, who was born and raised in Minnesota and went on to scale the heights of jazz composition and performance, even closely collaborating with David Bowie on his final album Blackstar. This year her orchestra is up for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album (Data Lords), and she’s also nominated in the Best Instrumental Composition category for “Sputnik.”

While we’re in the classy categories, a nod to the string quartet Brooklyn Rider. Despite their name, one of their members (violist Nicholas Cords) grew up in White Bear Lake, and two more of the members spent extensive time in the Gopher State as kids. So props to them on their Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance nomination for “Healing Modes.”

Now we get to the slightly more surprising nods, the ones that make you cheer. It’s no surprise that local guitar whiz Cory Wong’s profile has been growing nationally in recent years, but you can never count on Grammy recognition – and there he is on the shortlist for Best New Age Album for Meditations, a collaboration with Jon Batiste.

Then there’s Replacements biographer Bob Mehr, who is now a Grammy nominee in the Best Album Notes writer thanks to his work on the ‘Mats’ Dead Man’s Pop set.

Now we start to get a little tangential…but you’re still reading, aren’t you? Please, follow us down the yellow brick road to Renée Zellweger’s nomination for Best Traditional Pop Album for Judy, her album of Judy Garland songs released as a soundtrack to the superb biopic for which the actor also won an Oscar.

Emily King isn’t a Minnesotan, but she got a Prince co-sign, so that’s something! She’s nominated for Best R&B Performance, for “See Me.”

Finally, there was almost a Grammy nomination for everyone’s favorite infamous former Minnesotan, Diablo Cody. The musical based on Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill landed a nomination for Best Musical Theater Album…but unfortunately the nominees don’t include Cody, who wrote the non-musical parts of the script. Hopefully they’ll pull her up anyway if they win.